It finally happened. The James Harden Game. After weeks of good-not-great performances from the former MVP, he finally turned back the clock and showcased his singular shot-making talent in the Sixers‘ massive Game 4 win over the Miami Heat.
Harden scored 16 of his 31 points in the fourth quarter, making several difficult step-back 3s to nail the Heat’s coffin shut. This was by far Harden’s best game as a Sixer — or, perhaps more accurately, his best quarter. In fact, this was probably the most dominant Harden has looked since before his hamstring injury in last season’s conference semifinals with Brooklyn.
Miami is an elite defensive team with multiple elite perimeter defenders. None of them could fluster Harden down the stretch. He hit tough shot after tough shot, be it Bam Adebayo or Victor Oladipo in front of him. That’s the version of James Harden fans have been clamoring for — and the version fans probably shouldn’t expect every night. Even so, it’s nice to know Harden still has some of his old firepower deep in the tank.
Here’s what we learned.
Sixers-Heat Game 4 takeaways: Harden Heaven
This is the first legitimate “holy s—“ moment from James Harden since the post-trade honeymoon period. He drops one or two “holy s—“ passes every night, but this was an entire quarter of Harden just single-handedly wrecking the Miami defense. The Miami defense, which is pretty much engineered to slow players like Harden down.
We didn’t know if Harden still had this kind of shot-making display left in him. He’s still one of the smartest players in the NBA and his facilitating alone has elevated the Sixers’ offense in pronounced ways, but he hasn’t looked close to the scorer he once was in Houston. Not until tonight.
Shooting variance happens in the NBA. Harden going 6-of-10 from deep and basically not missing in the fourth despite taking exclusively high-difficulty shots will not happen very often. That said, this kind of performance from Harden will linger in Miami’s head. He’s not someone you can ignore, who you can let freely hunt mismatches on the perimeter. The Heat will need to send multiple bodies at Harden every now and then, which Harden can take advantage of with his passing.
Say what you want about the Sixers’ poor depth — it’s an issue — but having Embiid and Harden and Maxey and Harris is a deadly offensive combination. They’re just hard to defend. At some point, a great offensive player is going to find the seams and attack. Even the Heat, arguably the scariest postseason defense in the NBA, have trouble locking all windows and doors.